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Rediscovering the communal joy of Eid



The celebration of Eid Al-Fitr (the feast of breaking the fast) marks the end of Ramadan fasting. And this year, it has been a relief more than anything. It feels ‘normal’ again.

Families wait for morning prayers outside Sydney mosque (Brook Mitchell/Getty Images)

The global pandemic saw the mosque close its doors to worshippers during the holiest month in the Islamic calendar. It was void of the nightly congregational prayer special to Ramadan, taraweeh, that we attend in the evenings after the last daily prayer and after breaking our day-long fast. COVID-19 pulled the rug right under my feet. Gone was the quick dash from dining table to closet to car and then to the local mosque. What I can say about Ramadan in 2020 is that I endured.

In 2020, I would look back longingly on Ramadan nights at the mosque, even the ones where I would arrive late and quickly fall into line, hoping nobody would notice (they always did). I missed the familiar faces.

I feel as though I grew up there and so did many young Muslims. It was there we learned to worship as a community. Each new generation follows the same pattern: those who were once children there would grow up and bring their own children to worship with their community.

The elderly women I’d come to see as family would greet me upon arrival, their faces eager and beaming with the Ramadan high. Taraweeh is an annual rite and one that we hold on to dearly.

Ramadan is a lot of things, no water, no food, no swearing. Yet, one thing that is upheld is prayer or salat. In many faiths, prayer is a sacred act; in Islam it is a tenet. I tried to hold on to this in 2020, despite the absence of the community-led momentum. It was difficult, because although faith is a deeply personal relationship between an individual and God, without a community to share this with you can quickly become lonely and isolated.


'In the moment of preparing for the day, I remembered what it felt to make an effort and how my mum instilled in us a respect for the tradition and celebratory spirit of Eid'


The history of the taraweeh prayer is one of community building. The practice of taraweeh prayer began with a small group of worshippers who observed the Prophet Mohamed (PBUH) praying on a night in Ramadan and grew in size until the mosque was full of worshippers. It was not and still is not obligatory like the five daily prayers, however, it became a long-standing tradition in Islam to affirm faith and offer prayers as a collective.

There is a lot to be grateful for in Australia where the pandemic was contained enough to allow worshippers to flock to the mosque in droves. This year, many mosques in Melbourne reached capacity throughout the month.

But 2020 was a rude awakening. It dawned on people across the city, of all faiths, that the places we hold so close to our hearts and feel are impenetrable, are not. COVID has taught us that praying side by side in the mosque is not guaranteed, and so the community has come to value it even more.

I live a busy life and as I’ve grown older, the ritual of going to the mosque during Ramadan and attending every Eid morning prayer has (unfortunately) become less of a priority. But I made a point that Eid would be a priority this year, even buying a new dress, something I haven’t done since I was in my late teens. Even so, it was difficult to bring to the occasion the same energy I once had.

But in the moment of preparing for the day, I remembered what it felt to make an effort and how my mum instilled in us a respect for the tradition and celebratory spirit of Eid. ‘We may not have Christmas, but we have two Eids!’, she’d say when we’d spend the night before hanging up balloons and wrapping gifts.

When I arrived at this year’s Eid prayer, the mosque was absolutely packed. Outwardly, that’s no different to most years, but this year it felt different. In the absence of hugs and kisses we shared radiant smiles and endless ‘Eid Mubaraks’ (blessed feast). And the joy of being able to see the elderly, children and young people like myself gather together to celebrate, inspired a childlike glee around the holiday that I hadn’t felt in a long time.



Najma Sambul is a Somali-Australian writer. She writes both non fiction and fiction, but is adamant fiction writing still has a future. She has a number of unpublished short stories and a half completed comedy screenplay on her laptop. She remains optimistic about their future.

Main image: Families wait for morning prayers outside Sydney mosque (Brook Mitchell/Getty Images) 

Topic tags: Najma Sambul, Ramadan, Eid Al-Fitr, prayer, community, COVID-19



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Existing comments

Thanks for the article. It reminds me of a time working in a remote camp in (then) Irian Jaya and barracks style accommodation with associated difficulties during Ramadan. Rotation of work shifts meant that the 6 or 8 persons to a room was frequently disupted sleep but the fasting and prayer demands of Ramadan meant that the normal 5AM wakeup shifted to 3.30AM for some to allow time for "breakfast" before the radio-pronounced sunrise fasting period. There were a lot of sugary cakes and breads at the mess hall to give a short-lived zap of energy before a looong 12 - 14 hour work shift...and the sugar rush just burns off by mid-morning. "Lunchtime" was awkward with many office workers napping under their desk; phones were switched off and nobody knocked on the Musholla door. Fatigue management planning wasn't official but co-workers generally understood each other and stepped up accordingly. More cakes and icecream at night kept everybody awake too long. Eid Idul Fitri was welcomed by all, aside from the holiday the chance of an extra hour sleep and return to "normal" was true communal joy.

ray | 27 May 2021  

Yes, Ray; my own experience of Eid was in the company of a large group of Muslim university students, mainly Pakistani, including a state cricketer, invited for the celebration and without much English, and myself, a Catholic from hated India. I was deeply touched by this as well as by listening to the troubles of these young men, some of them married but without benefit of the company of their loved ones. Their sense of bonhomie and cheerful disposition in the face of much stereotyping and exclusion by others in the community reminded me of the many boarding houses I encountered in the UK of my youth with notices in their front-windows reading 'No Irish & Coloureds!' One particularly memorable celebration was of Eid, at which the fervour and devotion of the young men spoke of a prayerful surrender that we Catholics have manifestly lost in vast amounts as a cultural marker of our identity. Without more than a smattering of Urdu, I was taken by the beautiful chanting of the young lads of 'Allah h u', which loosely translates as 'God be praised', and which reminded me of the recitation of the Marian litany of my long lost youth.

Michael Furtado | 28 May 2021  

Michael F. You talk of "the prayerful surrender that we Catholics have lost in vast amounts as a cultural marker of our identity". Precisely the effect of some aspects of Vatican II which destroyed Lent as a time of abstinence and fasting celebrated in its passing by the great feast of Easter. I doubt that Islam will ever abandon the fasting of Ramadan and the celebration of Eid as the Catholics abandoned Lent and Easter, even though we brag about being the "one true faith". Thank you Vatican II. And we continue to theorise as to why some 70% of nominal baptised Catholics have given up practice!!

john frawley | 30 May 2021  

John Frawley, You properly take to my account with the scalpel of a surgeon, intent upon excision, and rightly focused on combating the cancer, wherever it exists. The problem with your diagnostics is that it works extraordinarily well in the operating theatre, in which there is no room for the kind of alternative view that says: 'Maybe not a bad thing; and perhaps we should leave this where it is and see where it goes.' The precision of science having never appealed, my friendship with these young men was tempered by epoche. Sure; I was well- aware that there were no women present and that the fancies of one of them, already married, extended to carrying a photoshot of Brooke Shields as the frontispiece on his mobile. But there I also was as a closeted gay man, admiring the beauty of the cricketer, who looked like Errol Flynn. So mine are observations to be shared and, if necessary, to provoke, because I also know from my spawning - from a generation that practiced mortification (and you'd know this as a medical man) - that some develop such a taste for the scourge and the lash that they forget about Christ.

Michael Furtado | 31 May 2021  

john, there are pros and cons with tinkering with religion. I recall a young Catholic at a picnic who mistakenly ate a ham sandwich on a Friday; her dread that she'd sinned was such that a priest needed to be called and it was a close call on administering last rites. She was catatonic and in shock, hospitalized by fear from a peculiar observance. Another welcomed adjustment was the Cathlic concept of Limbo being quashed... what an awful, insidious pressure to put on the mother, both pre and perinatal anxiety; fear that if the baby died before baptism it ended up somewhere to be avoided. Patterson makes light of it in "A bush Christening" but in my opinion Limbo was an ill-concieved, soul-gathering driven Christian contribution to post-natal depression. Purgatory was a Cathlolic contrivance, dreamed up around 1270's and wow, wasn't that a great theme to work with, to retain a contrite following of those who'd sinned just a bit but hopefully not overstepped some arbitrary, zealous mark to end up in hell forever. Interestingly, Islam generally believe hell is more like purgatory... It sure would be helpful if the church would provide a Users Guide to the Perplexed: why we change stuff. (Collect the set).

ray | 31 May 2021  

Michael and Ray. I confess that my posts re Vatican II suggest that I see no good coming from the Council and clothe it in universal condemnation. That is, however, not entirely true. I believe there are two faces of Vatican II; first, the face of great and necessary change, eg: the fear of eternal damnation following eating meat on Friday, concepts of limbo and purgatory and a host of other MAN MADE practices which betrayed God's beneficence. Second, the face that changed or challenged the GOD MADE, eg, the demands for sacramental changes (ordination and marriage), devotional practice such as the sacred liturgy, loss of universality, the abolition of the concept of sin and salvation to name a few. I view ecumenism as the greatest success of the Council in real terms. So much of the other stuff is still producing controversy and confusion 50 odd years later with disastrous, destructive reduction in practice (homage and service to our God and creator) and I fail to see how that could have been the intent of the Holy Spirit. I also fail to accept that it is the Holy Spirit driving the demands of the reformers who want to change the signature of Catholicism, its sacramentality, and replace it with a new brand of Protestantism.

john frawley | 01 June 2021  

‘mistakenly ate a ham sandwich on a Friday….pre and perinatal anxiety; fear that if the baby died before baptism it ended up somewhere to be avoided.’ It’s not the fault of a rational religion that some of its adherents treat it like a superstition. All adherents should be lifted by basic instruction out of the equivalent of wearing a nose bone. Anyway, it’s not as if the Old Testament prophets had a lousy time in the afterlife until the Crucifixion.

roy chen yee | 01 June 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘Errol Flynn….provoke’ It’s a pity he didn’t look like a young Albert Speer. That would have been a provocative post.

roy chen yee | 01 June 2021  

John, I've always thought that on Vatican II, and - at times unbelievably - you were, like me, on the theological 'cusp', as it were. Like you I come from a tradition steeped in Catholicism and married, for twenty years, a mouth-wateringly beautiful fellow Irishperson of your's, from a clan dispossessed of their lands in the North, crushed under the heel of an unspeakably cruel Calvinism, itself the avenging angel of massacred Huguenots, who, as you well know, are a million times more unyielding than the mellow Anglicanism of Irish Episcopalians. Hunted down through heath and heather, their hellish further experience of being harried through enforced famine and exile forged a bond between Church and people that, despite the hoo-hah about child abuse and celibacy, their proximity to their former oppressors will never break. I am of the view that such a bond, while vulnerable to the permissive fantasies of today, which I think will be overturned tomorrow (what bet abortion is banned in China soon, and elsewhere to follow, once demographers demolish the myth of overpopulation) will restore the equilibrium you and I long for. It follows that you may need to review your 'Irish Catholic' assumptions about 'Protestantism'.

Michael Furtado | 03 June 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘unspeakably….demolish the myth of overpopulation….’ Given these days that you can identify according to whatever grievance you want to wear if you have a risible connection to it, perhaps the 1 point something billion East Asians under the venerable leadership of Uncle Xi, and their cousins in the Mongolias, Koreas and Japan, and even their diasporans around the globe, might identify as Neanderthals and seek reparation for the unspeakable genocide committed upon their ancestor species by homo sapiens, East Asians apparently having a greater Neanderthalness than other races. If the myth of overpopulation is demolished, the 1 point something billion could easily hit 2. It’s not as if the extinction of the Neanderthal and the kicking of some European bottoms by other Europeans are in any way comparable as ecological disasters, it being dogma that the loss of a species is ipso facto a disaster.

roy chen yee | 04 June 2021  

The Prophet pbuh, did not found 'just another religion'. His understanding of the Revelation he received was this was more a universal brotherhood embracing humanity as a whole. Like Christianity, it was a social religion, sharing both worship, food and celebration. Egypt at Eid al Fitr is something else. This Eid actually goes for three days. Egyptians, to me, are one of the most educated, sophisticated and generous people bar none. Yes, I know about the government. It hasn't corrupted the average Egyptian. The richest to the poorest are outstandingly generous. No one has sampled hospitality until they've sampled Arab hospitality. Fr Jean Danielou SJ, a deceased French Jesuit savant, said that Islam still retained its interior dimension, whilst Christianity had lost its. As the descendant of Church of England and Church of Ireland clerics (the C of I was an English temporary resident) I deplore Christianity turning into a weak feel good mush. The answer is not to return to a sort of brainless dated Irish-Australian ghetto Catholicism. Ghettos are out. The answer is to imbue the stagnating Latin Rite of the West, which is literally dying in countries such as Austria and Germany, with the genuine Catholic mysticism of the Middle Ages. Pope Francis says it is the Carmelite charism to teach the Church to pray. I concur.

Edward Fido | 08 June 2021  

At least one good laugh and a half here, Roy! No cricketer I know could ever look like Albert Speer, otherwise the Brisbane Archdiocese wouldn't co-opt him into 'speer-heading' its evangelisation campaign. BTW, have you thought of applying once valiant Matt Hayden collapses under the weight of the burden he carries? Send photographs, resume and excerpts from your many posts here directly to Archbishop Coleridge, please.

Michael Furtado | 08 June 2021  

Michael, I have met many friendly Muslim people particularly when I lived in Mumbai. In Australia, some show us a smiling face, even if they hate non-Muslims, because they try to portray themselves as friendly people. Talking about Pakistanis, do you think they welcome Christians? Some of the Christians there have had to face false blasphemy charges - which has serious consequences - and churches bombed during religious services.

Mal | 13 June 2021  

True enough, Mal. And have you met Bosnian, Iranian, Kurdish and Palestinian Muslims who regard Christians as their allies? And what is the point of your searingly painful and confrontative question? Are you saying that because of some Pakistani Muslim injustices towards Christians we should persecute them in return? A cousin of mine, by marriage, is Cardinal Joseph Coutts, currently archbishop of Karachi. +Coutts, on the frontline of having to protect the poorest members of his flock from fundamentalist attack, paints a more complex picture of the important context of his mission. Firstly, he observes that Christian schools, especially Catholic ones, are at the forefront of the counterattack against poverty in Pakistan because their mission is educational and the overwhelming majority of their students are Muslim. Part of this educational outreach is that their medium of instruction is English, which provides one of the escape routes from poverty through enhancing opportunities to emigrate to the more liberal and democratic polities of Europe and the Anglo-American world. For him, the greatest challenge is the education of women and the poor, who are the particular targets of the Taliban in an Islamic society which denies the hopelessly unequal distribution of its wealth.

Michael Furtado | 15 June 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘"Karachi.’ With a domestic church of possibly a mere 200,000 under his care (about the population of Ipswich, Qld), within a metropolis of 15 million subscribing at least nominally to a form of prescribed emperor-worship, the archbishop of Karachi would be closer than most prelates to the working situation of the bishops of the very early Church. To see how he has to maneuver is to look back in time to how the Christians had to maneuver under the pre-Constantinian Romans.

roy chen yee | 16 June 2021  

+Coutts position, role and influence are far greater and more dire than you regard it, Roy. As a cardinal he is, in a sense, Pakistan's leading Catholic and pastor, appointed not simply to lead Catholics but as a Christian witness and presence to and within as well as from the entire Pakistani people. As People of the Book and members of one of the three Abrahamic faiths, Muslims share our roots and many aspects of the Old Testament, including the Qu'ranic injunction to 'share food with the hungry at our door'. While it constitutes a crying shame that for some persons the Islamic commitment to justice sometimes co-opts practices of such extremism and zealotry that they offend against global standards of moderation and human rights, history shows, especially during the Crusades and the Inquisition, that we Catholics were not averse to doing the same. After all, the Gospel writers, as we know and read them, were not averse to blaming the Death of Christ on the Jews, when scriptural scholarship clearly shows that the Romans were responsible for it - a shockingly awful and shameful calumny that was more than responsible for the Holocaust and lifted only at Vatican II.

Michael Furtado | 17 June 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘After all, the Gospel writers, as we know and read them, were not averse to blaming the Death of Christ on the Jews, when scriptural scholarship clearly shows that the Romans were responsible for it - a shockingly awful and shameful calumny that was more than responsible for the Holocaust and lifted only at Vatican II.’ Pontius Pilate didn’t call for water to wash his hands for nothing. He was only the proximate, not true, cause of death. Who were the true cause? To say that the Jewish nation of the time, let alone all Jews throughout history, was not responsible, only a small coterie within, is also to apply a proximity argument, similar, one would think, to saying that Australians in 2021 can hardly be held responsible for a certain historical interpretation of terra nullius. If a calumny was lifted because a coterie only was responsible, then, by application of the same logic, a calumny should be lifted from “so-called ‘Australia’” in 2021. As for “People of the Book’, precisely what ‘Book’ are we talking about: ‘The term was later extended to other religious communities that fell under Muslim rule, including Sikhs and even Hindus’ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/People_of_the_Book).

roy chen yee | 18 June 2021  

Roy, thanks for the reply, but your Australian comparison lacks proportionality, as do so many of your otherwise brilliant counter-arguments. Nonetheless, full marks for trying! Incidentally, the People of the Book are still regarded as Jews, Christians and Muslims, and the 'Book' alluded to, although there are many, is of course predominantly the Old Testament. Sikhs and Hindus have no connection with it.

Michael Furtado | 22 June 2021  

‘lacks proportionality’: Another typically Furtado half-answer. ‘Proportionality’ is a relationship between at least two concepts, such as two rights. So, what is ‘lacking proportionality’ to what? As for ‘the Book’, ‘The formal expression “People of the Book” (ahl al-kitab) is a Muslim one, and although the Jews and Christians—the other two parties in the collective—have occasionally, and reluctantly, adopted the term to describe the reality of their filiation, the focus here is on the Muslim interpretation of the term.…It is used in the Qur?an quite literally to designate people who possess a book, a revealed scripture. In Muhammad's world, that would be the Jews, who have the Torah (Tawrat), and the Christians, with their Gospel’: https://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780195390155/obo-9780195390155-0059.xml And if Islam could be updated, perhaps it might include the Mormons who also attach the King James to their scriptures. So, how meaningful is this term? Incidentally, if the ‘Book’ is the Old Testament, Christians, who are actually People of the Word than just people of ‘the book’, have more claim than Muslims because they honour the Old Testament by containing it (in utero, as it were) within the Bible, not merely make reference to it as in the Qur’an.

roy chen yee | 23 June 2021  

Darlin' Roy, I opted for 'them half-answers', when you complained repeatedly that I shouldn't take up ES' generous allocation of a 200-word limit. God forbid that one so committed to defending the 'One True Church's immutable and unfluctuating magisterium' should now change their mind!

Michael Furtado | 26 June 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘one so committed …should now change their mind!’ I note and defer to your personal pronouns which are ‘they’ and ‘them’.

roy chen yee | 27 June 2021  

Last night I dream't (yes; he invades my nocturnal pre-occupations;) that Roy had somehow managed to garner his combative energies to assist in the harried situation of Pakistani Christians. So far the mission of the Australian Church to Pakistan has taken the form of an outreach co-organised by the Queensland Sisters of Mercy and the Australian Catholic University to set up a teacher-training institute in Karachi, which is the episcopal seat of Cardinal Coutts' vast archdiocese numbering about 20 million souls among whom a mere handful, as Roy knows, are Catholic. One of the main aspects of this outreach is the English-language teaching context of the Institute, a factor much prized and welcomed by Pakistan, which being one of the remoter outreaches of British colonial influence in pre-partition India, has notably fewer English-speakers than its arch-rival, India. Add to that the more religiously devout and contained situation of Pakistani women and Roy will undoubtedly appreciate the challenges facing this enterprise. Given that Pakistani society, as indeed any Muslim one, is deeply embroiled, like Roy, in the struggle against modernism, Roy, as a ferociously-combative Chinese-Australian, could act as an ambassador extraordinaire between the Institute, the Chinese next door and cricket-playing Imran.

Michael Furtado | 28 June 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘nocturnal pre-occupations’ Dreams are generally constructed in the right brain. Given the overall dreamlike tone of this post, a suitable hypothesis (but only as a mirage, mind you) might be that China, where they drive on the right, is irrelevant in a Christian sense to Australia and Pakistan, who drive on the left. It might, however, be less dreamlike to note that the logic of the Magisterium is possibly left-brained with its focus on internal consistency and a suspicion of Socratic self-contradiction, the structure of Islamic theology possibly the same accounting for why these bookish monotheists are hard to convert, and the joyful prancing modernism of Michael Furtado and his compatriots of the synod reformasi wholly and fluidly of the waltzing and tango-ing right brain where no such things as permanent boundaries exist, suggesting that the likelihood of the meeting of the twains is … well … somewhat hypothetical.

roy chen yee | 01 July 2021  

You nailed it, Roy! T'was Imran I was after: gorgeously handsome and athletic, married for a while to mesmerising Jemima. My uncontrolled right-brain in the deepest darkest recesses of the uncontrolled nocturnal imagination somehow positioned me as his new paramour, offering to parent his boys, while ensuring that everything was idyllically in place for his (close to your's; no?) Islamic version of an ecstatic Paradise. Only his version - evidently not far from your's - would have me stripped, like St Sebastian, flogged and shot to death with arrows for my rampant same-sex proclivities The only bright light to tempt me to throw caution to the winds and step into this hellishly sado-masochistic scenario - not far, it seems, from your's - would be the promise of the lash and the scourge, those promising instruments of Catholic mortification, not to mention the exquisite though somewhat extreme pleasures of being stoned to death, a propect not far removed from your frequent forays into condemning homosexuality and how to deal with its obviously appealing vices. Has one ever met a man who so insists, all the while he keeps resisting? Has there ever been a jailer so unrelenting as one's own self?

Michael Furtado | 03 July 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘Only his version - evidently not far from your's - ….this hellishly sado-masochistic scenario - not far, it seems, from yours….a prospect not far removed from your….’ I can’t say what version Imran subscribes to except to say that someone who can’t stay married to one woman for life should be circumspect about what he says about morals because all morals are connected in logic because they all come from the same source. Anyway, I’ve said before that being homosexual is neither here nor there but supporting its expression is something quite different, a fact that you choose to ignore because it would put a stop to the joy you derive from histrionics.

roy chen yee | 05 July 2021  

Ach mein Gott, Roy! People following this thread will, once they check, come very quickly to realise that not the only histrionics on show here are mine. I have at all times confined the homosexual question to the confessional, while you, instead, have drawn forcible attention to it. What is it about you that persists in doing this, I wonder? Is it time for you to come out of the closet, Roy? Do your passionate antipathies betray hidden affinities? I accept you and, besides, its a bore.

Michael Furtado | 06 July 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘homosexual question’ It is a pertinent topic because it is a paradigm situation of a person who can be upright in all other private and public respects but be seriously disobedient towards Scripture and Tradition. Normally, sin involves doing something that is already, by secular standards, shady: lie, steal, cheat on spouse; pour engine oil down the drainpipe, kill Uyghurs by the dozen, etc. There are very few situations where what is an open, normal lifestyle is seriously morally discordant. Even abortion is a bit shady in a civil sense although there are strenuous efforts to normalise it in the sight of the public. Transgenderism is very new because it relies on pharmaceutical and surgical technology. So, we have homosexuality, serial monogamy, and contracepting whoevers, the latter two even more normalised in the secular civilian sphere. What has come to look very ordinary and matter-of-fact can be sinful because back when there were no ‘things’ in the universe, only spirit, you could still break the principle of logical consistency, such as by the notion that an angel can live outside the authority of God. In these intrinsic evils, no matter how ordinary they look, people are breaching Logic.

roy chen yee | 07 July 2021  

'I can’t say what version (of marriage) Imran subscribes to except to say that someone who can’t stay married to one woman for life should be circumspect about what he says about moral'. Roy, you need to acquaint yourself with the magisterium and what it teaches about marriage, especially the holistic and pleasurable aspects of it, for fear that those you influence will succumb to the horror-theology I was force-fed in my youth. For a start, my annulment determined that I was never married, precisely because, as a homosexual, I was unable to fulfill several of the many canonically-determined conditions for a valid marriage. If I had been asked to reflect on John of the Cross' ecstatic kiss by Christ in the garden, I'd have realised at a much younger age, that Christian marriage - and for that matter any other - joyfully embraces, rather than dualises the body-spirit separation that you impose, and which, no doubt, accounts for the excessive focus on the body evident in our obsessively sexualised culture. Take a look, Roy, at the orgasmic look on Teresa of Avila's face in St Peter's at the point of her receiving the stigmata. Tragically, I laughed at it.

Michael Furtado | 07 July 2021  

Homosexuality has nothing in common with transgenderism. Transsexual persons are not necessarily homosexual and, in most instances, male transsexuals who have transited to female, remain heterosexually attracted to, as well as by their wives. To claim that they are homosexual by virtue of their resort to surgery so as to alter their external paraphernalia would be a travesty. Matters of transsexuality and transgender are usually best explained by psychologists, who only recommend surgical intervention if their clients insist upon it. Beyond that, the sexual orientation of the client remains unaffected. We are dealing here, Roy, with medical conditions of considerable complexity and for you to make moral issues out of them is grossly reductive and in defiance of logic.

Michael Furtado | 08 July 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘not necessarily….remain’ Your post is irrelevant. Random outcomes of behaviour are to be expected when you step outside logic. The point is to stay within logic. ‘Homosexuality has nothing in common with transgenderism.’ It does. Both breach the logic of what is a human. ‘best explained by psychologists’ Psychologists explain from the ‘is’, not the ‘ought’. Logic is ‘ought’ and that’s the job of philosophy, of which theology is the philosophy which exists if God is real.

roy chen yee | 09 July 2021  

Michael Furtado: I was talking about Imran’s circumspection about what he should say about morals given that he was unable to stay married to Jemima. ‘…marriage, especially the holistic and pleasurable aspects….body-spirit separation that you impose’: No body-spirit separation imposed. The holistic and pleasurable aspects are subject to the teleology of the body. We can say this because after the universal judgement, souls will be re-incarnated but ‘sexuality’ in the earthly sense --- because there is no reproduction in the New Eden – will not exist. The principle that bodies only need to engage in sex for cosmically temporary reasons is best exemplified in daily life today by the institution of the celibate priesthood, institutionally pure in the Catholic Church and clouded in focus in others. There is no body-spirit separation, there is only the, perhaps understandable, fiction that sexuality is philosophically integral to the body. Not so, if you look in hindsight from the New Eden. The sexuality of heterosexuality derives its sense from being an instrument of the human duty to reproduce. The sexuality of homosexuality, having no duty as a purpose, has no sense.

roy chen yee | 09 July 2021  

Roy, 'there is only the, perhaps understandable, fiction that sexuality is philosophically integral to the body..... The sexuality of heterosexuality derives its sense from being an instrument of the human duty to reproduce'. This is akin to Gide's argument that free-will is only explained by the readiness to throw someone randomly out of a moving train; hence proving the barbarity of defenestration or evisceration, viz. if I can do it, why shouldn't I? A falacious argument because true morality, transfigured by faith in a loving God, interrupts this reductio ad absurdum to say we oughtn't because here also is someone like me: a precept that arises from the injunction to love one's neighbour as oneself. Fortunately evolutionary science has advanced enough to acknowledge the faith-view that opportunity and not-getting-caught are not the same thing and that restraint for reasons of loving another is a virtue. Your punitive, hammer-slamming god operates out of a universe that places what it is to be fully human on the same level as cuddly species-preserving penguins who waddle endearingly to an ice-cap's end for food only to hesitate enough for the first penguin to be pushed in to be 'Orcared', and only then jumping in.

Michael Furtado | 11 July 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘viz. if I can do it, why shouldn't I?’ And that’s about the totality of your argument.

roy chen yee | 12 July 2021  

Roy, In point of fact I argue the precise reverse; except from a very different and, in my view, more ethical perspective than your's. You wave the big stick which, constituting the weakest form of deterrence, is based on a childish 'there are fairies at the bottom of my garden' black and white rule of thumb. I appeal to an adult audience that simply isn't influenced by that anymore and which demands a higher level of explanation, exploration and persuasion.

Michael Furtado | 14 July 2021  

Roy, hiding behind your magisterium is an unexamined theory of moral philosophy which, among other things, states that it is an evil for a person to be cut off in the prime of life. And while this is self-evident, moral philosophers on this site would be astute enough to go one step further and observe that the greater evil lies in knowing that is going to happen. In other words, if it happened without our knowing, it wouldn't matter. However death is part of life and becoming acquainted with such a fact makes us sceptical of the all-controlling God that you cower beneath. Given that free-will baulks against this constant, persistent existential threat, faith development has moved beyond the big-stick approach that you favour (and in which fear provides the only standard of constraint) and towards a New Testament approach that emphasises love, humanity, justice and compassion. Otherwise you portray us as helpless and idiotic penguins, sweetly affable and somehow anthropocised into the sort of characters in a Disney story suited to the nursery. The challenge of that for adults is that while we understand the terror of being 'Orcar'd', our horror of it requires a better hermeneutic than your's.

Michael Furtado | 14 July 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘I appeal to an adult audience that simply isn't influenced by that anymore and which demands a higher level of explanation, exploration and persuasion.” And the demand is met by something about penguins, killer whales and throwing people off trains. What have those to do with the purposelessness of homosexuality?

roy chen yee | 16 July 2021  

Since you reintroduce your favourite topic, Roy, I have an answer for you. Homosexuality is a state or condition, like heterosexuality, into which the human person is sometimes born. Not just human persons but plenty of other examples of beings from every species in God's Creation. As such it is completely normal: no more nor less so than heteronormativity. That being the case, its 'purpose' as you call it, is to express the love between two persons as genitally applies to all species, should the persons who employ it be assured of their mutual consent and prepared to sign a sacred bond to love each other for the rest of their lives. The fact that, in some instances, genital expression leads in the case of some heterosexual persons to the conception and later birth of new human life is a blessing that is denied homosexual persons engaged in the same intimate relationship. This however should not either morally or legally prevent recognition of the sacredness of both acts, since all love is sacred including those sexual acts engaged in by heterosexual persons who are infertile or elderly. The application of your extreme biologism is contested by many Catholics and others.

Michael Furtado | 18 July 2021  

‘That's an assertion you've yet to prove,’ (A skeleton for the Plenary Council agenda, March 25) says the person who chooses not to believe Scripture and Tradition when it addresses a practice that is at least as old as the story of Lot.

roy chen yee | 19 July 2021  

The only writer that comments on Sodom’s sinfulness is the C 6th BCE prophet Ezekiel: 'This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty, and did abominable things before me; therefore I removed them when I saw it' (16:49-50). The Hebrew word translated into 'abominable things' is to’evah. This term has a broad range of meanings. According to the Encyclopedia Judaica, 'Common to all these usages is the notion of irregularity, that which offends the accepted order, ritual, or moral.' Ezekiel 16 says nothing about same-sex behavior. Context determines what Ezekiel meant by 'abomination': Sodom’s abomination was that it did not aid the poor and needy. The Sodom story never tells us that the men of Sodom were homosexuals. That word does not exist in the Bible. Genesis says that all of the city of Sodom 'to the last man' came out to surround Lot and his visitors (19:4). Are we are to imagine a city comprised exclusively of homosexual men? Surely, there were women and children in the city! Isn't is a fair inference that some of the mob gathered about Lot’s door were heterosexual men? If one insists that the actions of the men of Sodom are an indictment of homosexual behavior, would one also not have to interpret Lot's treatment of his daughters as abominable? Sure; some homosexual persons can be violent but it takes a homophobe to claim all are. Your biblical scholarship has yet to be established, Roy. Until you accept that Catholic exegesis insists upon contextuality, you represent a fundamentalist view. The stories of Sodom and Gomorrah are examples of mob violence committed against outsiders. That’s the sin of Sodom: not homosexuality!

Michael Furtado | 20 July 2021  

Michael Furtado: ’The stories of Sodom and Gomorrah are examples of mob violence committed against outsiders.’ The usual oblivious argument. The first question: why is the Holy Spirit inspiring an account which contains homosexuality in a context unfavourable to it? There are no embezzlers or gluttons in this story. Secondly: why do homosexualists use human nature to justify the naturalness of homosexual activity but ignore it when talking about the Sodom incident? No heterosexual rapist in his right mind, so to speak, would have preferred three male bottoms to Lot’s daughters. Heterosexual men have a psychological distaste for male sodomy. That’s more or less why homosexual men get beaten up. While beating a homosexual man is violating the image and likeness of God within the man, the visceral responses are evidence of the degree of psychological distaste. Maybe that was the point of featuring the daughters in the story, to show up sodomitical lust as a degradation. (And heterosexual men who practise sodomy on their womenfolk are equally degraded, but in a degradation that requires another terminology.) Thirdly, the strangers were summoned by the crowd for … what? To register their firearms with the sheriff? The request was very specific. There’s no rocket science here in knowing what was going on. ‘Are we are to imagine a city comprised exclusively of homosexual men?’ Does it matter? Bisexuals are heterosexuals who are partially homosexual. Call them bisexuals then. It doesn’t change the story, inspired to be recorded in its details by the Holy Spirit.

roy chen yee | 21 July 2021  

Roy, Competing narratives won't progress this discussion while we obsess about the rights and wrongs of anal intercourse: a practice that, as a gay man, I find squeamish. Perchance that's because of my age, my upbringing and the cultural norms informing the milieu of my beliefs and practices. (I am quite a puritan and, as you may have noticed, quite a few of those are gay). These contradictions, far from being read as paradoxes or even inconsistencies or gaps in human discourse - lies you would call them - are better addressed theologically through easy reference to the work of John J McNeill, a Jesuit for most of his life and who eventually outed himself and married. The roots of our discussion would then lie in assessing transgressive theologies, which scriptural literalists would read as too broad and therefore a cop-out. I have heard homosexuality compared to an excuse for breaking the rules and sinning on rather a 'sensational' scale: what you repeatedly parody as the 'work of the devil after the Fall' and which, in favour of what I regard as the pagan origins of your beliefs, misses the point. Homosexuals commit sin, yes; but can also be virtuous.

Michael Furtado | 23 July 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘assessing transgressive theologies, which scriptural literalists would read as too broad and therefore a cop-out.’ Overcomplicating the issue by a flood of words - again. No, the simple point is that the texts within Scripture have been inspired by the Holy Spirit. If they weren’t, no Christian would be obliged to accept them as true in whatever sense, literal or metaphorical, they can be read. The Lot story, as it is, appears in Scripture, as it is, because it was intended to appear as it is. Reading its details using common sense tells us that God disparages the sodomitical urge. If the urge is disparaged, so must, too, any philosophy which purports to normalise it. A philosophy which cannot be put into practice is not a philosophy but a delusion. ‘Squeamish’ is irrelevant. We’re talking on the logical plane. A thought which cannot licitly be enacted is a fallacy or untruth.

roy chen yee | 23 July 2021  

Roy, much as I admire your manly, no-holds-barred, sensationally heteronormative and sinewy (ahem;) approach to interpreting the literalist Scriptural text, it would hold much more sway with countless sinners like me were it to be expressed in the words of a great Catholic poet like Francis Thompsom: 'I fled Him, down the nights and down the days; I fled Him, down the arches of the years; I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways/Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears/I hid from Him, and under running laughter'. In 2002 Katherine Powers of the Boston Globe, called 'Hound of Heaven' the most beloved and ubiquitously taught poem among English-speaking Catholics for over half a century, adding that Thompson's other poetry lost its popularity amidst anti-Modernism in the Catholic church during most of the twentieth century. However, she observed that the C21st century is more akin to his spirit. Thompson's medical training and life on the streets gave him a gritty view of reality and a social conscience, and his governing idea that God is immanent in all things and in all experience (so vexatious to both Victorians and the Vatican alike) no longer strikes an alien or heretical note.

Michael Furtado | 24 July 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘God is immanent in all things and in all experience’ It’s unlikely that God was immanent in the thing and experience that was Lucifer’s rebellious thought. If so, he would not have been immanent in the individual thing and experience that was the rebellion of each member of the third of the host. Given that he was not immanent in the thing and experience of a lot of things and experiences, it’s reasonable to assume that he may not be immanent in ‘all’ things and ‘all’ experience.

roy chen yee | 25 July 2021  

Roy: neither Euclidian nor Thomistic! Even Aquin argues in the Summa that God is Love, just as we are, (including Lucifer, as you call him) creatures of God's Love. The difference between us and God is that God gifts us with love, so that when we love another or others we are expressing attraction which is a gift of God, as opposed to our love of God, which we can never reciprocate in kind: gratefully and in awe of the fabulous gifting of this immensely unconditional and enormous thing we inadequately call Providence. Satan, the fallen angel, is also loved for Satan's brilliance, intelligence and attraction that we sometimes feel for Satan. Of course, God does not love or enjoy or value in any way these negative aspects of Satan but God certainly loves Statan as God does all of God's Creation (Thomism 101). I think that Duns Scotus ('God's Goodness'), from the monastic Celtic tradition, has a much more wholistic and immanent view of God: God is good and there is goodness in Everything, even the Fallen Angel. Unfortunately Anselm and then Aquinas, the latter importing Aristotelian teleological dualisms of Absolute Good and Absolute Evil, have skewed your understanding.

Michael Furtado | 26 July 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘God gifts us with love, so that when we love another or others we are expressing attraction which is a gift of God’: but when we express attraction, homosexual, pederast, pedophile, bigamous, adulterous, attraction to a transgender, you name it, are we expressing that love which is a gift of God? Because attraction is also a feature of lust, only a regulated attraction can be said to be related to love.

roy chen yee | 27 July 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘God certainly loves Statan as God does all of God's Creation (Thomism 101)’. Irrelevant for the purposes of this conversation because the following statement is untrue: ‘God is good and there is goodness in Everything, even the Fallen Angel.’ There is understanding of goodness in intelligent beings. What the being chooses to do with that understanding determines whether there is goodness in that being. After all, the logic of free will means that if Lucifer says to God, ‘I choose not to have any of your moral attributes in me’, what else can God do but remove all of his moral attributes from (your non-existent friend,) Lucifer?

roy chen yee | 27 July 2021  

Roy, Please don't twist my words in an attempt to justify your position that there are aspects of God that are unloving and retaliative. Satan's negativity, while undoubtedly a product of Satan's freewill, and by inference our own, has no status in the eyes of God because in Christian theology there is no battlefield -other than in your mind - whether even or not. Your bitterly divisive and heresy-hunting separation of good from evil would be dehumanising, were it also not so primitive and unavailing. And your understanding of sin as a breakdown in our relationship with God is occluded by your extreme antipathy, to the point of it demonstrating obsessiveness, against same-sex attracted persons. In sum, my view is that you should reserve your remarks for the drama theatre, reprising what life must have been like under Savonarola. With respect, the only persons I have heard mouth your 'theology' are the Mormons, and even then, the ones I know are mellower than you. Of course, your riposte is usually to say that its not your job to be mellow but to make a good Devil's Advocate. While I wish you well I think this exchange has run its course.

Michael Furtado | 27 July 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘this exchange has run its course.’ Has it? On your terms of ‘don't twist my words in an attempt to justify your position that there are aspects of God that are unloving and retaliative’? All I’ve said is that if Lucifer wants to be emptied of all godly attributes, God will oblige. What’s so unloving and retaliative about that? The exchange hasn’t run its course. You’ve decided to run your course because of ego and the fact that you can’t defend your position. To conflate the ‘exchange’ with yourself is to be infantile. Infants don’t know that there is a difference between themselves and the world. To them, the world is themselves, just as, to you, this exchange seems to be about yourself. I would hope that in my crotchety old age, I would never stoop to harumph! harumph! 'This exchange is ended.' The Socratic dialogue has its natural end when the logic is exhausted. Until then, free will is the right to your opinion but not to your facts, unless you happen to be an infant.

roy chen yee | 28 July 2021  

Au contraire; I don't seek to defend my position because I have nothing to defend. Its your certainties that I question. Your God is an ironist, who seems to set up experiments with us playing rats. Our task is to locate the door behind which eternal life or hell awaits: ethereal music & a golden gleam as opposed to the literal fire and brimstone of eternal damnation. It is I who rejects your infantile view. I allege that these are false doors, set up by people like you to entrap us. The game thought up by people like you is to plant fear and self-loathing in us undeserving critters and then observe the consequences. To see how one door, which even we can't open, is the only correct one and then to start beheading anyone who puts money on a different set of doors. Wouldn't THAT be fun! Your God drops hints, taunts with promises, threatens with punishment, offers obtuse clues, appoints agents provocateurs like you. And he watches as we squirm. I'll have none of that. I'm still searching. I fear not in seeking him. I hope he has pity on your smug confidence and your lazy simple-minded faith.

Michael Furtado | 01 August 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘Its your certainties that I question’. ‘It is I who rejects your infantile view.’ ‘pity on your smug confidence and your lazy simple-minded faith.’ Spoken like a true anti-vaxxer to the plebs who take their jabs, which is what you would have to be if you applied your rule-aversion consistently across your domains of behaviour. The rules are clear. Just follow them. The oratory in the rest of your post are unexplained propositions which would bend and crack Occam’s Razor.

roy chen yee | 02 August 2021  

The thing drawing us together, Roy, is our belief in justice, hallmarked by Wittgenstein, a Catholic philosopher. He reflected that we spend our lives only partially seeing ourselves, which is why we 'contest'. He ruminates that when we fall in love we hope we are 'fully seen' and approved. Sure, love doesn't always bring approval. It may lead to a thumbs-down and a season in hell, but who's to say it isn't love? The problem, and the paradox, lies in the lovers having enough of a sense of justice to choose a beloved with such a reciprocal sense of justice as to approve of the lover. Hence God's love, for all its pain and pleasure, in the the Christian understanding of that word! In Christian theology we comfort ourselves that human love, even if brief and imperfect, is but a foretaste of the wonder and perfect vision of Divine Love. So, I agree: its all we Christians have and must make do with our fallen status! And so, still we long for the comfort and the truth of being 'fully seen', which can only be through the eyes of God. Might that make for a good resolution to our exchange?

Michael Furtado | 05 August 2021  
Show Responses

God is the copyright or patent owner of two phenomena, ‘faith’ and ‘love’. It’s up to him to say when and where these exist. It was not for Abraham to say he had faith. He only knew because God imputed the phenomenon to him. Christ rebuked his followers for calling him ‘Lord, Lord’ when they didn’t do as he said. Faith without deeds is ‘dead’. Talk and walk are different things. If it’s not up to us to say we have faith, is it up to us to say if we have love? Scripture says that Jesus asked Peter if Peter loved him. Scripture also shows that Jesus never told Peter if he loved Peter. Scripture tells us that Jesus loved the apostle John, the ‘disciple whom he loved’. Scripture also shows that John was never asked if he loved Jesus. It might be noted too that Peter’s confession of love to Christ could be regarded as coloured because it occurred post-resurrection, after faith in Christ had turned into certainty (just like Thomas’). Had the same question been asked of Peter after he witnessed the Transfiguration, would he not also have replied in the affirmative (only, a short while later, to be derailed in the high priest’s courtyard)? God ‘loves’ us (whatever that means, we know it is so because of Scripture). In return, we hope that obedience by deeds will impute to us those phenomena. Idle disquisitions about how we are autonomously capable of faith and love are probably just gasbaggings from your non-existent entity, Lucifer.

roy chen yee | 06 August 2021  

'Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres'. (Paul - a Gospel writer! - 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, Douai Version). Thanks for sharing your profoundly knowledgeable discernment on Love, Roy.

Michael Furtado | 07 August 2021  

God is love and God is infinite. Is 1 Cor. 13:4-7 an infinite description of love? Could Paul have written an infinite description of love given 1 Cor. 13:12: ‘For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror….’ But I forget. You believe in conscience unguided by the Magisterium. In that case, it’s like explaining ‘Namaste’ to someone who refuses to believe that India exists.

roy chen yee | 08 August 2021  

No; I don't think that, Roy! I think that you misconstruct and diminish the impact and purpose of the self-same Magisterium that you applaud, reducing it to the lowly status of a cudgel with which to bash those who oppose your particular view of orthodoxy over the head.

Michael Furtado | 10 August 2021  

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